A/N:*runs away screaminng*
IM SORRY FOR THE ANGST BUT I HAD TO DO IT
Do What You Can
Fatherhood, as any Father would tell you, was a dreadfully difficult thing to accomplish. Far more than even Motherhood. That isn't to say, of course, that a Mother's job isn't in itself a tireless and thankless occupation, because it is. But a mother and her child, however, possess a bond that is unspoken, that does not need to enforced even if the pair remain estranged for sometime, no, it is an eternal thing of beauty.
The same, however, cannot be said for Fatherhood. It is an awkward role, to become a Father, the unspoken bond of love does not exist here. A father must make his child, though his own flesh and blood, be proud to call himself – or herself – his child. If done correctly, the bond between father and child is a another entity all together, forged from understanding and commitment to the relationship between them.
That being said, Merlin wasn't so sure he'd done his job as a Father well. There had been friction and there had been many a happy occasion amongst them, but Merlin would never be able to tell if he had done his job as a Father, had he done all he could have for them? Had he made sure to teach them all he knew? But what was it that he knew? Most days he woke more unsure of the world than the day before. The only surety to Merlin was that he was unchanging in his loyalties. For the Pendragon name may he live and breath and for the Pendragon name may he die.
As he approached the Castle walls of Camelot, it was notable in the air, that something was different. The city looked the same, the trees were brilliant in their hues, the people looked the same, joyous and happy and sad and angry at the spinning wheel that was life; still, even the Castle looked no different than when he had left, standing tall and proud with the great red flags saluting the Kingdom for all to see.
So where was the difference?
The answer, of course, was simple enough. It was in the slamming open of the eerily silent doors to the Great hall, previously closed as he had approached. But now, the doors did whirl open and Merlin was left befuddled as a rather angry Salazar blazed past, sparing nothing but a biting glance for his foster father as he went.
He blinked. Well, that was unexpected.
"Salazar!" It was just then that Gwen, Rowena and Godric came to the doors from inside the Hall, stopping short to the sight of Merlin standing perplexedly in the hallway, looking between Salazar storming off and the visibly shaken trio that stood before them.
After what felt like an age, Merlin found his way to the apothecary gardens in the rear entrance of Camelot's castle. This was Helga's refuge, Merlin thought as he approached, uncaring of the way his shoes squelched in the mud, sinking toe-deep. It was a wooden structure she had built with the help of Magic, the first thing she'd done when Arthur had made the move to legalize magic.
It was a sanctuary not only for the plants taking respite from nature's brutality but for young Helga as well, who Merlin knew was not meant for the rougher parts of life's realities. A loud crash brought Merlin's mind to attention, seeing the flash of red hair at a particular bench bend down.
"No no no no no no no." The Warlock walked into find his foster daughter desperately trying to shovel a dying mandrake back into its pot. "ImsorryImsorryImsorryIm-"
Helga made an odd hiccuping shriek when a hand came down on her shoulder, only to swallow it back into a cough when she realized who it was.
"Father!" She rose to give him a hug and from the trembling, Merlin knew things were much worse than they seemed.
It was the first time Helga had spoken after her initial greeting. Since then Merlin had sat with her silently, replanting baby mandrakes into larger pots, the monotony of the activity helping to clear both their minds.
"Hm." Merlin made a sound of acknowledgement and stopped working, choosing to watch Helga now. Even at the cusp of adulthood, Merlin still saw in her the innocent child who had chosen to hold his hand all those years ago. The baby cheeks and the plumpness of childhood had given way to the slenderness of youth but still to Merlin, she was still the young one with the sparkling green eyes that somehow found her way to his soul every time she looked at him. And looking at her now, Merlin could see her hurting, and hearing her hurt, made him hurt all the more for it.
"He talks to snakes in his own language, and he won't tell me what they say." A snip of a leaf of a plant could be heard in the silence.
"He's begun to refer to everyone else as 'them', like they're the enemy." The stem of a rose cut to allow for more water, and the replanting continues, still Merlin remained silent.
"He thinks that only those of 'pure' blood should be able to study magic. What does that mean? Godric and Rowena have tried to make him see reason but he just won't." She pulled a mandrake roughly from its pot and planted it before it even had time to shriek.
"There's just 'them' and 'us'. Like we're back under Uther's reign and the Purge will be coming for us." Helga's eyes were now swimming in unshed tears, spilling ever so slightly down her cheeks.
"It's always about the past. About how our parents died, about how Auntie died. Always about revenge." She spit the word out in revulsion as Merlin watched her simultaneously grow angry and scared.
"He's always so angry. We used to think it was Godric who was angry, but Salazar, oh Father, Salazar is just so furious all the time. We've tried everything but it just gets worse." Helga stood up, her arms taut as her fingers clenched tightly to the workbench, tears rolled down her face.
"I can see him, Father, I can see him changing and I can't stop him!" Helga pounded her chest as the sobbing made it harder for her to breath. The sunlight glinted off of her hair in the sunset, dyeing it in brilliant burnt orange, while Merlin gathered his daughter to him, embracing her as the tears soaked his sleeve and he rested his head on hers.
"What do I do, Father? What do I do?"
He didn't tell her of the things he'd seen in Talisien's cave, of the path Salazar's anger would take, what it would mean for the love he would betray, of Helga lonely even as Godric stood guard at her deathbed watching her mouth Salazar's name, or of the glimpses into the future for what Salazar's actions would mean for those yet to come. He wouldn't say, even now, that in Salazar eyes he saw the same hurt, the same anger, the same pain that once had torn a fiery path through Morgana's eyes and Merlin had done nothing but watch. Instead he just said.
"We do what we can, Helga. We do what we can."